The "Cardiac Hill Roadshow" is a six-part weekly series that covers the ins and outs of traveling to watch your Pitt Panthers on the road this season. We will touch on everything from how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, what to see and do on and around campus, and even some sights you might run into along the way. Join us each week as we offer up information and entertainment as our lead-in to the 2012 college football season.
Today we will look at the trip to Tampa, Florida and the University of South Florida.
Starting point: Pitt's campus
Ending point: USF's campus
Time: 17 hours, 22 minutes
Distance: 1024 miles, or the yardage (in miles) a "high octane" offense would put up against the Bulls in 3,446 games.
Places to see along the way:
The Greenbriar Nuclean Bunker, White Sulphur Springs, WV
World's Largest Fire Hydrant, Columbia, SC
UFO Welcome Center, Bowman, SC
The Bench From Forrest Gump, Savannah, GA
Mulberry Phosphate Museum, Mulberry, FL
For further information about traveling to South Florida, we've solicited the help of some locals. So here is some advice that Collin of Voodoo Five had to offer.
First of all, Tampa International is consistently rated as America’s #1 airport, usually has plenty of cheap flights each way, and puts you close to the core of the city. If you’re on the fence between flying and driving, fly. So worth it.
Where To Stay
Outside of Las Vegas, Tampa is the best city I’ve ever seen for using Priceline to buy your hotel. The difference between the rack rates and what you’ll pay is never higher in any market than it is here. I’ve paid $22 a night to stay here before. Nuff said.
Look in the Westshore District (not as much to do, but closer to the stadium and airport) as well as Downtown. Anything that’s 3 stars or better will be fine in either section. You really don’t want to be staying by USF, as all of us love our little section of heaven up there, but to a tourist I’m sure it’s an acquired taste. Unless you plan on raising a family in Tampa Palms, or doing Everclear shots out of a sorority girl at the Bulls Club, there’s really no need to go north of Hillsborough Avenue on your trip.
If you’re going to have a rental car and are ok with driving, Downtown St. Petersburg is about 25 minutes from the stadium and is the hot new ‘hood all the hep cats are talking about, which is incredible considering the average age was "hospice" a mere 15 years ago. And if your pasty Yinzer skin is just dying for some beach, check out St. Pete Beach and places like the Post Card Inn (my personal fave) or the Don CeSar (if you like taking baths in your money pit with Scrooge McDuck). The sunsets out there are some of the best in the world, and the beaches are big with great sand. Lots of fun beach bars with music too.
The stadium is in what’s called West Tampa, so besides eating some amazing Cuban food or staring at amazing strippers, there’s not too much to do besides tailgate. The good news is all the parking lot is grass, and lots open 5 hours before the game.
Where To Eat
This might take a while.
Steak: Bern’s Steak House. Bite the bullet, spend the money, and do it. Literally the best steak house on earth. The décor is garish, and the French Onion is merely average. AND IT DOESN’T F'ING MATTER. If you don’t get the chateaubriand, you hate America. If you order your steak at anything over medium, I pray that Todd Graham wins multiple national championships at ASU and leaves his trophies on your lawn. Take the kitchen tour, as well as the tour of the world’s largest wine cellar and collection. That’s not hyperbole, it really is the largest. It’s a national treasure. Is this the touristy answer? Absolutely. Do it anyway. I live 6 blocks away, so invite me too.
Cuban/Mexican/Spanish: La Teresita is a dive, but you will eat authentic Cuban awesome, and it’s literally impossible to have a $10 check per person. Open 24 hours on the weekends, which is important because the only other places open around the clock in Tampa are the four Taco Bus locations. I have been paid for important work in Taco Bus before, the stuff is that good. Also the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor is a city institution, where it’s held everything from mob hits to the unionization of cigar workers in the early 20th Century. Ybor City at night is to mostly be avoided, but we’ll make an exception for the Flamenco Show at The Columbia. Get the 1905 salad, the paella, and the bread pudding. You’re welcome.
BBQ: Lee Roy Selmon’s. One about 5 minutes from campus, and one in Westshore. I dare you to eat a barbeque roll or their cornbread pudding without having a sexual thought. It’s impossible. Also doubles as the best sports bar in town, and the name on the place is that of one of the best men I ever knew. We miss him dearly around here.
Italian: Pane Rustica. For lunch, get the "Shut Up & Eat." They’ll bring you whatever they want, and it’s $12. You don’t like it? GET SOME F'ING TASTE. Actually they’ll be much nicer about it, but trust me, it’s always gourmet amazeballs. A bit pricey for dinner, but incredibly worth it. Pizzaiolo Bavaro downtown is really good too, and so is Pelagia Trattoria in the International Plaza Mall (a hidden gem in a mall sounds weird, but it’s seriously hidden under the hotel).
What To Do On & Around Campus
Don’t go. Seriously. I mean it’s pretty and stuff, but unless you really have an overwhelming desire to see the super cool bookstore or our awesome new athletics facilities, it’s just not a destination type of campus. Oddly, I would tell you to send your children to college there in a nanosecond. It really is the University of Sun and Fun… but you kind of have to go there to appreciate it. Weird I know, but trust me.
Gameday Traditions To Take Part In
Besides lining up outside the stadium to park and set up your tailgate as quickly as possible when the gates open? Well, the Herd of Thunder plays on the south side of the stadium about an hour before kickoff. Otherwise we tailgate like Southerners, which means better than you. Tents, booze, friendly people, beer, sundresses, alcohol, satellite dishes, liquor, cornhole, beer pong… you get the idea. The heat and the time of kickoff are a factor, but if you get a 7pm Saturday game later in the year where it’s not oppressively hot, it’s as good a tailgate experience as anywhere.
Someday they’re going to let us in more than 5 hours early, and then I’d say we could compete with the tailgating at any school in America. And honestly, that’s the only national championship many of us are interested in winning.
Other "Good To Know" Information
I live in the SoHo (South Howard Ave.) District, and that’s where you’re going to want to hang out and drink. Tons of bars, some places with really good food (717 South, Bella’s, The Lodge), and a good vibe. There’s no hotels in the area, but you’re just a short cab ride away no matter where you stay if you’re on the Tampa side. Also a great place to learn first hand that Tampa has as many attractive women per square foot as any city in America.Channelside is very touristy, and Ybor has just fallen apart at night. Bay Street at International Plaza is a bit corporate for my tastes, but it’s not totally horrible.
Get a Cuban sandwich while you’re here. Pork (representing the Cuban immigrants), salami (Italian immigrants), and ham (Spanish) with pickles and mustard, pressed and served warm. Some people also put lettuce, tomato, and mayo on theirs. Those people also love Skip Bayless, Wal-Mart, and scratch off lottery tickets. Best ones are La Teresita, Alessi’s (carved right in front of you), The Columbia, Datz (not authentic by their own admission, but still amazing), Brocato’s, & West Tampa Sandwich Shop. That’s not in order, because I can’t decide.
We are Cigar City, so head to Ybor if you’re looking to try a new brand or something different. King Corona has one of the biggest humidors in the city, and is also a wonderful place to spend a few hours with food, booze, and coffee. Their hand rolled smokes with no paper ring are the best tobacco bargain on earth too.
You might have heard about our strip clubs. Well everything you’ve heard is probably true, especially if it involved the spaceship at 2001. There’s two types of clubs; pasties and g-strings with booze, or full nude and no booze but full contact. Of the full nude places, 2001 and Mons Venus are the most famous, and they have deservedly earned their reputations. I’m not a big strip club guy, but what we have here blows away anything I’ve ever seen elsewhere (except for one spot in Memphis, and they closed that place down). If adult entertainment is your deal, paying an always negotiable $20 a song is a rite of passage you’ll probably want to experience.
I’d say you’ll love Ray Jay… but you have Heinz Field, and they’re incredibly similar. Just replace Primanti Brothers with turkey legs and the open end of the stadium with a pirate ship. But it’s never snowed here. And you can wear shorts to 95% of games. And it’s gorgeous just about every day in the fall. And you can play 18 holes before a football game any weekend. And the women are much hotter. Otherwise, it’s just like Pittsburgh!
TROLL SO HARD, PANTHERS!!!
I would say that the last paragraph hurt, but until South Florida plays for a BIG EAST Championship in December, they can have their sunny days and golf.
I also considered linking to the strip clubs' websites, but thought better of it. I'll leave that one to all y'alls Google prowess. Be forewarned, those sites aren't exactly safe for work.
Pittsburgh native Matt Charles had some additional info to offer while visiting Tampa. Matt recommends getting a Cuban sandwich from the Floridian, whose webpage is actually http://finestcubansandwich.com. He also recommends checking out Cigar City Brewing and take a brewery tour.